CES 2022

CES head's justification for keeping the show IRL is absolutely unhinged

“I will feel safer at CES with our vaccine and masking mandate than I do when I’m running every day errands, including food shopping!”

Gary Shapiro, CTA president

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 09:  President and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association Gary Shapiro d...
Ethan Miller/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Somehow CES 2022 is still happening in a little over a week, despite the single-largest surge in COVID-19 cases ever recorded in the United States. The electronics show will be far less enormous than usual, but not necessarily because organizers at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) wanted it to be that way.

A not-insignificant number of high-profile vendors have dropped out of in-person CES events in the last couple of weeks as the omicron variant infects thousands across the country. Most recently, IBM, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Panasonic pulled out, each citing an abundance of caution in their decisions. Tech publications like The Verge, CNET, TechCrunch, and Input have decided to go all-remote on coverage, too.

And yet the CTA marches onward with its planning. CTA president Gary Shapiro went as far as to post an extensive rant on LinkedIn (and in the Las Vegas Review-Journal) about why, exactly, CES is still happening. He says CES “will and must go on.”

The show must go on — Let’s take a moment or two to read through Shapiro’s op-ed. We promise it’s worth the time. Here are some of our favorite ways in which the CTA president explains his reasoning:

  • If we do not cancel, we face the drumbeat of press and other critics who tell the story only through their lens of drama and big name companies. We suppose this applies to us (pretty meta of us). Anyway, it’s pretty telling that Shapiro’s leaning on “bad press” — not the ongoing public health crisis — as a reason to not cancel the show. Interesting.
  • I will feel safer at CES with our vaccine and masking mandate than I do when I’m running every day errands, including food shopping! Sorry, what? CES is notorious for packing attendants in like sardines. What kind of grocery store is this man going to?
  • It may be messy. But innovation is messy. It is risky and uncomfortable. Well, sure, innovating isn’t a clean process, but CES isn’t actually fostering innovation. The innovation’s already done before these companies arrive on the showroom floor.
  • For those who are vaccinated and willing to take the minor risk of Omicron and a quarantine, CES may be worth it. I’m sorry, did this man just refer to COVID-19 (you know, the one that’s killed more than 2 million people) as a “minor risk”?

CES in shambles — Many companies are still planning to send representatives to CES. Some, like BMW, have said they will still have some sort of displays available for viewing on the showroom floor.

Plenty of others have decided to go all-remote, including but not limited to:

  • AT&T
  • T-Mobile
  • GM
  • Google
  • Meta
  • Twitter
  • Amazon
  • Intel
  • TikTok
  • Pinterest

The CTA wanted very badly for CES 2021 to be held in person, too, though the organization eventually made the decision to go all-digital. The previous year’s CES was one of the last large-scale events to be held before the pandemic set in.

Now we know that crowded, indoor spaces are prime breeding grounds for COVID-19. And hundreds of thousands of people are contracting the virus every single day. But sure, let’s hand out just two rapid tests (which are unable to detect the virus for the first few days of infection) and hang out in that petri dish for four days. Should be fine, right?